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  • 29 Jun
    导出博客文章NEW YORK -- With the NFLs regular season at about the halfway point, one team
    clearly stands out above the rest: the New England Patriots.For the second
    consecutive week, Tom Brady and Patriots are the unanimous No. 1 in the latest
    AP Pro32 poll , which was released Tuesday.The Patriots again received all 12
    first-place votes for 384 points from balloting by media members who regularly
    cover the NFL.The Patriots enter their bye week at 7-1 and have a three-game
    lead in the AFC East.Tom Brady has 12 touchdowns, no interceptions and no
    losses, said Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.The Dallas Cowboys
    (6-1), the leagues only other one-loss team, remained at No. 2 after rallying
    for a 29-23 overtime win over the Philadelphia Eagles.Dak Prescott was far from
    perfect against the Eagles, but his clutch play in overtime with the
    game-winning TD pass to Jason Witten off a scramble offers yet another glimpse
    into his upside and offers further proof that its not time for Tony Romo,
    Newsdays Bob Glauber said.AFC West rivals took the next two spots, as the Denver
    Broncos moved up a spot to No. 3 and the Kansas City Chiefs jumped three places
    to No. 4.The Seattle Seahawks fell two spots to No. 5 after losing 25-20 at New
    Orleans.The NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons jumped four spots to No. 6 after
    rallying for a 33-32 win over the Green Bay Packers, who fell a spot to No.
    9.Behind MVP candidate Matt Ryan, the Falcons head into a Thursday night matchup
    in Tampa leading the league in scoring offense, total offense and big-play
    capability, said Ira Kaufman of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.The Oakland
    Raiders, who are tied with the Broncos for first in the AFC West at 6-2 and host
    them on Sunday night, moved up two spots to No. 7.The Raiders have been perfect
    on the road, said Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback. Now, with the
    Broncos coming to town, theyll have to find a way to win at home if they want to
    make gains in the wide-open AFC West.The Minnesota Vikings, who have lost two
    straight after a 5-0 start and still have a one-game lead in the NFC North,
    dropped three spots to No. 8. The Eagles dropped four spots to round out the top
    10.---AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
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    . The 20-year-old Pelicans big man glanced up and smiled
    widely at the well-wishers -- a fitting end to a day he wont soon forget. Davis
    responded to his selection earlier in the day as a Western Conference All-Star
    with 26 points and 10 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame a 10-point
    fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-91 on Friday
    night.
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    . Nigeria beat surprise package Ethiopia 2-0 in the second
    leg of their playoff for a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory. Victor Moses
    converted a 20th-minute penalty after an Ethiopian handball, and Victor Obinna
    made certain of Nigerias place in Brazil with his powerful free kick in the 82nd
    at UJ Esuene Stadium.
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    . Robredo, ranked No. 16, bounced back from an upset loss to
    Leonardo Mayer in the second round of the Royal Guard Open in Chile last week to
    down Carreno Busta in 1 hour, 25 minutes. On a day filled mostly with qualifying
    matches, fifth-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain also entered the second with a
    7-5, 3-6, 6-2 win over Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia, while Guido Pella of Argentina
    defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 7-6 (6), 6-4 to advance. There was
    little to suggest, through the week, at the Karnataka State Billiards
    Association (KSBA) in central Bengaluru that a World Championship was underway.
    Despite some of the games best players in the house, the playing hall was
    largely empty and quiet; except for the final, which was packed, there were
    fewer than a dozen spectators - and half of those were invariably players
    families.The answer possibly lies with the sport in question - Billiards.At a
    time when sport is being tweaked to fit capsule-sized formats, and keeping in
    mind decreasing audience attention spans, billiards sticks to tradition: Players
    dressed in waistcoat and bowtie, matches sometimes lasting seven hours long.
    Billiards evolved from a lawn game similar to croquet played in the 15th
    century, and doesnt seem to have changed much since then.Its younger cousin,
    snooker, ticks the right boxes. Its faster, uses more balls (15 as opposed to
    the three of billiards) and generally enjoys a wider profile across the globe.
    In Myanmar, for example, snooker is the growing sport; billiards languishes in
    obscurity. Youngsters in Myanmar take to snooker a lot more than they do to
    billiards, Myanmars highest-ranked billiards player Aung Htay told ESPN at the
    World Championships. Billiards is viewed as old fashioned.It seems almost
    everyone in the game agrees with that, but nothing has been done about it. The
    rules of the sport have to be tweaked, says reigning national billiards champion
    and this years World Championship silver medallist Sourav Kothari. Billiards is
    getting monotonous, especially the long format. You have to jazz it up, bring
    more noise into the sport. The absence of a marketable star with a magnetic
    personality - someone who would venture beyond the staid and predictable, and
    maybe even engage in the occasional trash talk to fan viewer interest - has also
    hurt the sport. Pankaj Advani, one of its bigger stars, is reticent,
    non-controversial and anything but pompous of his achievements. Rivalries in
    sport work like a charm. Theres very little of it in cue sport. The ones that
    exist arent storied or publicized enough. We need a couple of good rivalries to
    latch on to peoples imagination, feels Geet Sethi.A primary concern for the
    sport is its lack of television coverage. A crushing blow in frenzied times such
    as these. The reason again lies in the sport itself: not being
    spectator-friendly enough. Talking to ESPN, Peter Gilchrist admits despite
    decent attempts at making the game shorter, little has changed. Weve tried
    everything: 50-up, 100-up, 150-up, points format, time format but unfortunately
    theres still no people. We probably need a bunch of girls in bikinis, he says,
    over a laugh, At least it worked for beach volleyball.While shorter formats,
    like the 100-up, which essentially means a player would have to first score over
    100 points to win a frame in a usually best of five frame format which can last
    anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour are more popular among a wider base, it
    hasnt really translated into tangible numbers for the sport.Geet Sethi, easily
    Indias most celebrated name in billiards, argues that the relevance of the sport
    in the 21st century isnt a fair question, choosing instead to focus on the
    factors which contribute to its peripheral status. To make billiards spectator
    friendly is a tough call, he says, Given that weve tried the shorter formats as
    well. Take a sport like shooting or archery for instance. Theyre really boring
    to watch and anything but spectator-friendly, but being a part of the Olympics
    has changed the dynamics. We need to be back in the Asian Games at least, to
    start with.Cue sports were part of the Asian Games from the 1998 Bangkok
    edition, but were dropped at the 2014 Games in Guangzhou due to financial
    constraints. It does not feature in the Commonwealth Games either. That makes
    the Olympics a pretty long shot. Getting into the Asian Games would be a huge
    boost and would lead to a revival. The future of billiards, I feel, lies in
    making a comeback at the Asian Games, which would be fantastic. Or else we would
    be plodding along like we currentlyy are, adds Gilchrist, agreeing with
    Sethi.ddddddddddddOne way, Kothari suggests, of making the game more interesting
    is by adding a circle somewhere on the table, either by way of a thin round film
    or a laser beam. We could say that if theres any ball in that circle and you
    score points from there you get 30 extra points, he says, The circle could be
    put in a very difficult spot in the table, where the ball cannot go too often,
    maybe inside the D and we could have a blue ball as one of the strikers instead
    of having a spotted white and spotted yellow one. If the ball stops inside a
    particular circle, you lose a point that you scored or if it stops inside a
    particular zone you lose your visit and a certain number of points. We need to
    change the way viewers see the game. We need to make it more colorful. Maybe the
    white can be done away with totally and we could have a green or blue striker
    instead.Ascribing billiards sagging interest to a sea change in the sponsorship
    scenario, Gilchrist says that through the 1990s when ITC sponsored billiards
    events, there was money in the sport. Since tobacco sponsorship ended, billiards
    too is more or less gone, he adds. ITC was known to have spent close to Rs 250
    crore annually in sponsoring cricket, golf, billiards, tennis and horse racing
    events before pulling out in 2001 following the central governments decision to
    ban advertising and promotion of tobacco products. It did, however, return
    following a three-year hiatus to hold the 2005 Sunfeast Open tennis tournament
    in Kolkata. Billiards needs an influx of cash to pick up. Its not really a
    spectator sport. Its more of a strategic game and the best players make it look
    far too easy, says Gilchrist, who won his first world title in 1994.While a
    snooker and pool league is in the works for a possible March 2017 launch in
    India, billiards isnt part of the plan. Hosting the ongoing World Championship
    cost the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) close to Rs 70 lakhs,
    out of which the primary sponsor, Karnataka Tourism, paid Rs 15 lakhs. The
    lacunae lies within the federation itself, says BSFI secretary G
    Balasubramaniam, We are unable to promote the event (World Billiards
    Championship) because of our limitations. Private sponsorship is little. What is
    worrying is that even for a big-ticket snooker event like the Indian Open, which
    is beamed live and well-promoted it is very difficult to find willing
    sponsors.Earlier this month, the sports ministry in association with the BSFI
    inaugurated a billiards academy at the Talkatora stadium in New Delhi and the
    idea, Balasubramaniam adds, is to replicate the effort in five centres across
    the country. It is divided into two sections: one for beginners and the other
    for players, he says, Its been less than a fortnight so far and the numbers are
    on the rise in the beginners section. Also our application for promotion of
    billiards in schools and colleges is pending.An oft-talked about disincentive of
    the sport is its need for infrastructure to be played: Table, balls, cue, unlike
    say football or cricket. The accessibility to such facilities being limited to
    high-end social clubs or pool parlours makes it instantly unappealing to a large
    section of people. The jury has also been long out on the need for the sport to
    shed its bowtie-waistcoat dress code and become more casual, funky, colorful and
    most importantly, relatable. Kothari, though feels the sport is synonymous with
    its look. I like the waistcoat, maybe not the bowtie. It adds to the grace of
    the game. Gilchrist had a more ingenious idea to offer. We should probably turn
    up in trunks, he says, cracking up.While billiards future, some might suggest,
    hinges on its ability to reinvent and package itself better, Sethi has a word of
    faith. There will be periods when well have brilliant players, good rivalry and
    it will become popular. Then well go through a lull phase. It could be
    alternating decades possibly, he says.Billiards is a great survivor.
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